Battered. Injury riddled. Thin. Hurt. Wounded.
All of those accurately describe the Syracuse offensive line right now. When the injury report came out on Thursday, seeing Nick Robinson and Rob Trudo’s names appear was a bit of a surprise. Alas both tried to play on Saturday, but Robinson left the game.
The offensive line was already bruised with starting right tackle Ivan Foy having missed the last several games. Omari Palmer has filled in admirably there, but it left the Orange unable to deal with any more injuries.
The Syracuse front five just cannot catch a break.
”We have a lot of guys inside and out hurt,” head coach Scott Shafer said. “We’re just not the same up front right now. And also, nice job by NC State as well. They did a nice job and we’re just a little thinner than we’d like to be. But no excuses, own it, move on and find a way. Find the next guy up who can help us move the ball a little bit better running it.”
Indeed they are not. Syracuse rushed for only 38-yards on 37 attempts, in large part because the interior of the offensive line was unable to get a consistent push in order to give the running backs room to run.
“There were some guys were just unable to get the job done,” senior offensive tackle Sean Hickey said. “When you’re in the game you are supposed to execute, and it’s not an excuse to blame our loss to the injuries. If you are in the game you are supposed to execute if you can’t execute then we have to get the next guy in there.”
All-in-all, Syracuse saw eight offensive linemen enter the game. Jamal McGloster played a snap for Omari Palmer due to a minor ailment. When Nick Robinson left the game for good early, Michael Lasker, who is a natural tackle, came in at guard. After Lasker proved ineffective, backup center Jason Emerich came in at the right guard spot.
Emerich was called for a holding penalty and chop block infraction, both of which took away solid gains by Syracuse. In fact, with Syracuse trailing by three with a little over four minutes to go, Syracuse had a second and six at their own 42. Quarterback A.J. Long hit Steve Ishmael for an eight-yard gain to midfield and what would have been a first down. That’s when Emerich’s chop block was called, nullifying the first down.
Long was sacked on the next play, fumbled, and NC State recovered.
Missing two starting linemen and playing with a clearly less than 100% Rob Trudo, the Orange offensive line really struggled on Saturday. Just as the group was starting to come into their own a few games ago, the injury bug has hit this unit hard. It is a big reason why the offense continues to struggle to find consistency.
”No. Not at the same time like this before,” Shafer said. “I was talking to [Athletic Director] Dr. Gross about that earlier this week. I’ve been in situations before where we’ve had a lot of injuries, but they were all over the place and never up in there with those guys in the middle like this. “But, no one else that’s playing us cares so we’ve got to find a way to go to war and that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll just keep fighting and get this Duke team in here, a well-coached football team that will be a hell of a challenge for us but it’s what we live for.”
The Syracuse offense relies heavily on the running game. The injury issues up front prevented the Orange from having success in that facet of the game. It put freshman quarterback A.J. Long in a difficult position having to carry the load. Further complicating things was the quick pressure he saw on nearly every drop back.
Long was sacked eight times on Saturday. Entering the game, the Orange had only given up ten on the season.
Syracuse has three games left, including one against 7-1 and nationally ranked Duke and two on the road against rivals Pittsburgh and Boston College. They have to win each of those in order to become bowl eligible. A task that is even more difficult due to the lack of health along the offensive line.
”We just go out there and find the next guy and see if we can do something great,” Shafer said. “Let’s just focus on the positives that we can and not worry about the things we can’t control. We always talk about controlling the things we can control in life and then working at all the other things and then praying when you can’t figure it out. That’s what our kids are doing.
”We had Jerome Smith and Marquis Spruill in visiting this weekend and they talked to the kids and that’s what Jerome talked about, controlling the things you can and trying to prove people wrong. That’s the approach we’ll take. We always have and I know our kids will go really hard at it.”
Scott Shafer Post-Game: